Mike Gitter is from a suburban Boston town called Marblehead on the North Shore, which juts into the Atlantic. As an energetic teen, he was immediately drawn to the raucous music spewing from Boston. Represented by bands such as The F.U.’s, Gang Green, Jerry’s Kids, The Freeze, The Proletariat, Negative FX, Last Rights, D.Y.S., and, of course, SS Decontrol, the Boston scene was nefarious. Its notorious crew built a reputation that spread all the way to New York and D.C. The brotherhood of hardcore and punk—and straight edge, for some—solidified this cohesive bond, but Gitter loved it all: every band from either coast.

As 1983 began to stretch, many people involved were growing bored with hardcore, but Gitter embraced this next impending wave of hardcore punk and documented it throughout the decade. Now, Bridge Nine Records founder Chris Wrenn and Gitter have joined forces to print a gorgeous hardcover collection of Gitter’s work, released Nov. 10.

“From 1983 to 1988, I did xXx. It was an entry point or my way of participating in a scene that, from a musical and ideological point, completely spoke to me. The zine lasted 20 issues over six years,” Gitter distills his pitch. “My emphasis was having a strong pictorial content and the writing not being bad, and we covered a lot of stuff as well.”

After his short-lived first zine, Suburban Mucus—which is included in the deluxe package—Gitter began by putting out 75 copies of xXx, spawned from “a $50 to $60 loan from my parents, which I still have to pay back, and high school enthusiasm,” he shares. Equipped with a typewriter and rubber cement, Gitter says he made trips to “either Kinkos or Sir Speedy” to produce his little pulp packet of punk passion. Stemming from a rudimentary concept, the execution grew in quality. “The quantum leap was halftone photos and offset printing,” he recalls

In 2017, the public benefits from Gitter’s ardent achievements. The zine’s impact had been passed down through hardcore generations. “It was resonant enough that Bridge Nine approached me about 10 years ago to do a book version of it,” he says modestly. Bandying the manners of execution, Gitter was the first to say no to including all 20 issues—either a sign of efficient editing or self-deprecation. “No one needs to read upwards of 500 pages of naïve but heartfelt writing,” he asserts. “It is engaging to see people grow up in public, but no one needs to see every wart and blemish. It wouldn’t lend itself to being a good book. So, we did a ‘best of’ of the 20 issues. We figure it would be a 120-page book, taking us four to six months to do.”

Gitter explains that he and Wrenn extracted two interviews from each issue. They would need to track down photographers to get new pictures and add commentary on the 30-year-old material. Milo Aukerman of Descendents—who refers to Gitter as “our ambassador to Boston”—remains a friend of Gitter, as does Ian MacKaye. Henry Rollins replied to Gitter’s email within 30 minutes, ready to reflect. xXx’s pages in book form encapsulate the original material with black margins boasting the subjects’ current perspectives. These include Jack “Choke” Kelly of Slapshot, Dicky Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reed Mullin of Corrosion Of Conformity, Skeeter Thompson of Scream, Mike Judge, Wattie Buchan of Exploited, and many others. The process began slowly, but Gitter explains, “Wrenn had just released [the] ‘SCHISM’ book, [Bridge Nine Press’ first release].” The release was “a nice slice of hardcore history,” but left Wrenn “burned out,” he says.

Around 2012, Gitter was “surveying hundreds of mostly unseen photographs. Lots of flyers. Lots of stickers” when he was prodded to contact Wrenn again. Though Revelation Records were also interested in publishing the xXx collection, Gitter divulges that he “felt a draw to go with Bridge Nine. First, it’s a Boston hardcore label. Second, it is one of the best-realized and run underground music labels in America. Wrenn is one the most disciplined; [he] always had an integrity about him that has transcended to the label. Bridge Nine is literally from where I grew up: my sister lives one mile away, my parents live three to four miles away. Al Quint, [the scene legend behind Suburban Voice], lives around the corner. Great label, great people. It was the right place to put this book.”

They decided six to seven months of work would be needed, but that estimate forfeited to the reality of the four and a half years it took to gather materials. A whopping 288 pages were needed to capture even the trimmed two-bands-per-issue approach, which lent substance to the highlights of this punk journal. Seeing bands like The Dicks, Necros, and Negative Approach in their prime and in the moment is enticing. Witnessing the contrast from 1983 to 1988 with bands like Corrosion Of Conformity, Suicidal Tendencies, Minor Threat, and Fugazi will enthrall any fan, but it had to be a really big deal to land Motörhead, Metallica, and Anthrax. In “xXx,” Gitter treats them with reverence and comments on their impact on Boston hardcore, especially D.Y.S.

While some scene purists might scratch their heads, Gitter addresses this occurrence with a casual determination. “I was never closed to a certain kind of music,” he says. “As long as it conveyed aggression, outrage, and a worldview, it didn’t matter if it was Metallica or if it was Negative Approach. Better put: it didn’t matter if it was Bad Brains or Metallica, because both those bands were making music that was changing one’s corner of the world. Obviously, the lyrical content was different, but the feeling, the outrage, and the speed and conviction was pretty similar. After you grow up on ‘x amount’ of great hardcore records and your palate starts expanding, and then you discover Venom and Motörhead and early thrash—there is a very similar feeling. You certainly had bands like Leeway or Cro-Mags, even watching Suicidal Tendencies grow to expand. [There was] definitely an across the board influence.”

Gitter continues, reminiscing, “[Cro-Mags’] Age of Quarrel or the first two Suicidal records; those bands are tighter than Metallica. Obviously, the musical blueprint was laid by the Bad Brains. From then, there were changes in music itself that have been inescapable.”

“xXx” boasts domineering figures beyond Metallica, from Rollins, Glenn Danzig, and J Mascis—Deep Wound and Dinosaur Jr. to Witch and Tee Pee Records—to stalwart bands such as Corrosion Of Conformity and Suicidal Tendencies—and, hell, D.O.A., G.B.H., and Agnostic Front—still, in their same-name form, impacting bands today. But really “xXx” is for fans who did not get to ingest legends like Samhain, Dag Nasty, SSD, D.Y.S., Minor Threat, Choke, BL’AST!, Jerry’s Kids, and more in real-time, as the maturation of short-lived bands exuded a pithy pathos.

xXx

These exalted groups live continually now thanks to blogs and downloads, but to hold the source material—anchored by commentary of participants—is an experience any aged fan and collector will cherish.

Gitter himself was moved by the tangible product encapsulating his youth’s efforts. “I just a got a copy of it,” he says, “the final hardbound, four-pound, 11-inch by 11-inch beast. I’m very proud of the results.” Thirty years later, this edition sat in Gitter’s hands, beautifully edited and designed by Wrenn in stark red, white, and black. “It feels like part of my journey has come full circle,” he adds. “One gets to reconnect the reasons and motivations and that naïve sense of wonder that, as a young person, you approach music with: that once in a lifetime feeling of ‘This record is speaking to me.’”

“Somewhere, halfway through the book, it was less about documenting my fanzine and was a snapshot of music and ideology and people in motion,” Gitter expands. “That period, 1983 to 1988, it was firmly the second generation [of hardcore]. The era when bands like Black Flag went from being trailblazers scene-wise and musically to being musically influential, slowing down, giving you records like My War, influencing the Melvins—in turn, influencing Nirvana. It was also the era when people like Bob Mould, Glenn Danzig, J Mascis from Deep Wound, Lou Barlow from Deep Wound all became songwriters, all became these oversized personalities. Henry [Rollins] was no longer just the singer of Black Flag; under the sheer steam of his own will, he became an important figure in the development of underground and, ultimately, mainstream music and [became] known internationally.”

Gitter, ensnared in recollection, extracts the inevitable, deeper conclusion. “This is really a book about transition,” he asserts, “about people growing and reaching—occasionally failing and making mistakes. People losing sight of why they picked up a guitar, but also, artistic triumph. You started getting bands like Flaming Lips, Metallica, and Butthole Surfers, influenced by, or tangentially part of, punk and hardcore. It was a productive and prolific era of music. The butterfly effect of it is still being felt today.”

“Stepping back from the book, I was most pleased with how varied those scenes were, the depth of those scenes,” he continues. “You got the sign-off from hardcore’s first generation, but you got the metal punk crossover, New York hardcore, youth crew, indie rock.” Gitter revels in the splintered genres and residual scenes generated from his Boston hometown. The other benefit of resurrecting xXx was that it “brought me back in touch with friends and acquaintances,” he notes. Gitter was excited by “Bubba Dupree [of Void] coming to my office and talking about the never-released second Void album. Or being on the phone with Greg Graffin [of Bad Religion], how ambitious and instrumental and influential they were as the beloved punk band that re-sparked punk rock in Southern California with Suffer in 1987.”

Ultimately, Gitter’s trajectory through nostalgia and fascinating memories finds him existing again as a fervent adolescent, trying to watch and produce simultaneously in this subculture in which so many have found solidarity and an outlet. In conclusion, he boils it down to a single record: SSD’s Kids Will Have Their Say. “In 1982, as a teenager, from the music to the lyrics to the artwork to what the band was about to the scene that record created to their impact on the world,” Gitter is in continuous awe of it all.

“Mind you, this is from people who live one town over from me,” he adds. “Seeing people you know having that impact, that’s liberation. Being able to make a difference or writing your own script as a young person—I recaptured that feeling.”

Purchase xXx here via Bridge 9 Records

LIST OF FEATURED BANDS:

·7 Seconds
·Accused
·Adolescents
·Agnostic Front
·ALL
·Anthrax
·Articles Of Faith
·Bad Brains
·Bad Religion
·Battalion Of Saints
·Black Flag
·BL’AST!
·C.F.A.
·Choke
·Circle Jerks
·Corrosion Of Conformity
·Cro-Mags
·Dag Nasty
·Dead Kennedys
·Descendents
·The Dicks
·Die Kreuzen
·D.O.A.
·Dr. Know
·D.Y.S.
·Exploited
·Final Conflict
·The Freeze
·The F.U.s
·Gang Green
·G.B.H.
·Government Issue
·Hirax
·Hüsker Dü
·Ignition
·Jerry’s Kids
·Marginal Man
·The Meatmen
·Metallica
·Minor Threat
·Minutemen
·Misfits
·Motörhead
·Murphy’s Law
·Necros
·Negative Approach
·The Outpatients
·The Proletariat
·Psycho
·Raw Power
·Rollins Band
·Samhain
·Scream
·Siege
·Slapshot
·SNFU
·SS Decontrol
·Subhumans
·Swans
·Suicidal Tendencies
·Uniform Choice
·Verbal Assault
·Void
·Voivod
·Youth Brigade
·Youth Of Today

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